Toxics managed, treated or released into the environment from facilities operating in California decreased 14 percent in 2009 when compared to 2008, according to the latest data available from the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency. The 6 million pound decline reflects reported decreases in air, water, and land disposals, releases and off-site transfers.
The data comes from the EPA’s Toxics Release Inventory, commonly referred to as TRI. It’s one of the EPA’s largest publicly available databases, providing communities valuable information on more than 650 toxic chemical that are managed or released by various industries. The chemical information in the inventory is calculated by industrial facilities and reported to the EPA, as required by law.
“These annual reports arm citizens and local governments with information about toxics that could pose potential hazards in their area,” said Jared Blumenfeld, Regional Administrator for EPA’s Pacific Southwest region. “Federal law ensures that all communities have a “Right-To-Know” so they can make informed decisions to reduce chemical use and plan for emergency responses.”
Total releases include toxic chemicals discharged by facilities to air, water, land, and underground, and the amount transferred off-site for disposal. Pollution controls apply to many of the reported releases. Reporting facilities must comply with environmental standards set by local, state and federal agencies.
Release data alone are not sufficient to determine exposure or to calculate potential risks to human health and the environment. TRI data, in conjunction with other information, such as the toxicity of the chemical, the release medium (e.g., air), and site-specific conditions, may be used in evaluating exposures that may result from releases of toxic chemicals.
Data from 2009 in California shows:
- Total reported on-site and off -site disposals and releases decreased 14% due primarily to decreases across all media—air, water and land releases and off-site transfers, with the exception of an increase in underground injections
- Air releases decreased by 25% (3.2 million pounds)
- Water releases decreased by 24% (523,491 pounds)
- California reported an increase in underground injection releases of 267% (279,802 pounds since 2008)
- The top five released chemicals are lead, zinc and zinc compounds, ammonia, and asbestos.
- In California, 7 million pounds of total releases of persistent bioaccumulative and toxic chemicals (PBTs) were reported, a 16% decrease or 1.3 million pounds. Lead and lead compounds top the list.
Annual Toxics Release Inventory reporting began in 1987 after the enactment of the Emergency Planning and Community Right-to-Know Act of 1986. The inventory provides information to the public on annual toxic chemical releases reported by certain industrial and federal facilities. The TRI does not include data on toxic emissions from cars and trucks, nor from the majority of non-industrial sources, such as agriculture. In 2000, TRI expanded to include persistent bioaccumulative and toxic chemicals, or PBTs, at ranges from 0.1 grams to 100 pounds. PBT pollutants are toxic chemicals that remain in the environment and food chain, posing risks to human health and ecosystems.
*Hazardous waste management facilities account for a large quantity of toxic chemicals disposed of or otherwise released to the land. These facilities, however, are disposing these wastes into permitted landfills, which must follow very stringent guidelines for their design and operation to avoid chemical releases. No adjustments were made for double counting that could occur as a result of off-site transfers by some TRI facilities also being reported as on-site releases at permitted hazardous waste landfills or recycling facilities.
TRI Explorer is a tool that you can use to see the Toxics Release Inventory (TRI) data. It allows you to look at data by state, county, or zip code; by chemical; or by industry. It provides maps that you can click on to find TRI facilities, chemicals and industries in a particular area.
National TRI Findings:
- There was a 12% decrease in total reported releases into the environment nationwide from 2008 to 2009
- The number of facilities reporting chemical releases decreased 7% nationally
For more on the TRI program including additional city, county and facility information, please visit the EPA’s Web sites: http://www.epa.gov/tri, http://www.epa.gov/triexplorer and http://www.epa.gov/enviro.
For more information on the PBT Chemicals Program, please visit the EPA’s Web site at http://www.epa.gov/opptintr/pbt